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10 Tips for Creating an Ethical Culture, One Decency at a Time

One of the toughest tasks for a manager, no matter what type of company you work for, is to earn the respect and the trust of those who work for you, while still ensuring that your company or department is meeting all of its production / financial goals. We hear all the time about "ethics," especially out of Congress, but that concept has been so misconstrued lately that it basically means: If you're going to accept money from somebody, make sure there's no paper trail.

Ethics in the workplace, though, is very much a consistently challenging ideamaybe because it's so rare, or maybe because "ethics" is usually one of those subjects that you have to take a whole separate class on in management school. Rather than having it taught as part and parcel of how a manager should conduct himself or herself, ethics is considered something "extra," sort of like, "Okay, after you've got your production staff focused on reducing defects to X parts per million, after you've got everybody trained on this new machinery, after you've integrated your sales forecast numbers into the back-end inventory system THEN you can spend a couple minutes each day thinking about ethics."

Steve Harrison, chairman of career management firm Lee Hecht Harrison, has written a book called The Manager's Book of Decencies: How Small Gestures Build Great Companies (McGraw-Hill, 2007). I asked him to put together a "Top Ten" type list of things a good manager should do to keep his/her staff motivated and focused, and maybe even create a feeling of loyalty in the workplace.

Anyways, here's the list:

1. Never fire someone on a Friday, or on a significant day, such as right before the holidays or right before their pension plan vests. Always fire the person in person, in private, and do it in their office or a neutral space, so they don't have to "walk the gauntlet" past coworkers.

2. In meetings, don't multitask, don't interrupt, and don't speak more than 60 seconds at a time. Keep an open notebook in front of you when an employee is talking.

3. Keep meetings short. At Starbucks, the CEO and president, Jim Donald, limits one-hour meetings to 45 minutes--and tells employees to use the extra 15 minutes to call someone they usually don't contact every day.

4. Greet employees by name and learn all of their names. Spend two minutes talking with a different employee about non-work topics every day.

5. Make it a point to thank employees for work well done. Slip a handwritten note into their pay envelope, or write thank-you on the back of your business card and leave it on their desk. Compliment three people every day.

6. Have lunch with employees. Cisco System's CEO John Chambers hosts a monthly hour-long birthday breakfast for any employee with a birthday that month. Employees are invited to ask him anything.

7. Surprise employees with small gestures of recognition. At Cigna Group, executives push coffee carts around the office once a week, serving drinks and refreshments to their colleagues to get a chance to hear their concerns and answer their questions.

8. Take an employee's job for a day. At one Chicago bank around the busy holiday season, executives worked as bank tellers so the tellers could enjoy a day off for shopping.

9. Another low-cost way to recognize employees who have done a good job is to let them pick their next project or swap a task with someone else.

10. Relieve workplace stress by celebrating holidays not usually celebrated such as Groundhog Day, Arbor Day, Bastille Day, Polish Independence Day, and summer solstice.

Anybody got any additional "decencies" they think should be added to the list?

TAGS: Supply Chain
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